Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to provide coaching to a rookie in your team?

Coaching a Rookie in your teamOne of the most important duties of a Manager/Leader is to coach their employees to get the desired business results. Like….one management style doesn't work for everyone, one coaching style doesn't function for everyone. Depending on your employee’s experience and historical background, you have to customize your coaching style to get the best out of themselves. Right? In this blog post, I will provide you with few pointers through which you can effectively coach your new hire.
Before I provide you with any strategies to coach your new employee, let’s find out few challenges that they would face as a new hire………As a new hire, your employee (Mrs. X) would require clear direction on what she is supposed to do, right? She will also need some clearly defined work assignments, where she can get herself acquainted to your company and its processes, am I not right? Obviously, she is new to the company, so she will also need your help to expand her circle of influence to get the work done.
Since, we are clear on what challenges she would face as a new employee in your team, now we can go ahead and define some coaching strategies. Following are few strategies that I use with my new hire…….
  1. Frequent feedback: As a new employee, she would not know if she is doing the assigned task appropriately and up to your expectations. And hence, providing frequent reviews and feedback is a must.
  2. Set clear expectations: In order to make sure that she can be productive quickly, you need to provide clear and detailed instructions for every basic tasks that you assign to her. It would be better for you, if you can provide her with smaller projects with clearly defined start and end times. This will make sure that you educate herself with your team’s processes while meeting your productivity targets at the same time.
  3. Ask questions:  In order to make sure that you are strengthening your relationships with your new employee and she is getting all the information that she needs, you need to regularly ask her questions. Questions like……. “How are you doing?”, “Do you have time for lunch?”, and “How do you like our team?” will help you to strengthen your relationship with her and to build your initial trust. On the other hand, questions like…….”Are you getting the information you need?”, “Are you meeting the right people?”, and “Let me know, if you need anything” will help her to make sure that she gets the work done.
  4. Assign a coach: Obviously, you would be introducing her to your team and encouraging her to increase her circle of influence within and outside of your team. But sometimes that is not enough. You need to explicitly assign a member of your team, who is willing to coach her. This strategy will not only help her to get herself acquainted with your team’s processes, but it will also give your experienced employee an opportunity to showcase his talents to you. With an explicit coach assigned to her, she can now learn your processes, languages, and acronyms used in your area without your explicit time given to her.
I hope, these tips will help you to better coach your new hire in the team. So, what would you do differently to coach your new employee? Do you have any other ideas to effectively coach your rookie?
Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

Monday, December 31, 2012

How to manage your Chinese employees effectively?

Chinese employees working in a manufacturing plantMy first real exposure to China and Chinese employees was in the early 2009, when my company decided to open its research and development center in Beijing, China; and put me in charge of newly developing system automation team in China. Since then, I have worked with Chinese employees extensively, either it’s at my current job or at some of the smaller companies that I have consulted over the years. Though I am still in the process of learning more about the Chinese culture, one thing is clear, the leadership style of the Western Countries is not effective when you work with Chinese employees. Thus, in this blog post, I would provide you with some insight on how to effectively lead your Chinese employees.
Management style: In developed countries like the United States, we provide opportunities to our employees to resolve problems/issues by themselves. While this kind of strategy (delegate and disappear) is very effective in developed countries, it doesn’t work well with Chinese employees. Chinese people are very traditional, they respect authority and are introverts in some cases. So, they will depend on you to take critical decisions of the project that you have assigned to them. In order to work better with them, you might want to …….(1) Stop by their desk or video conference them at least 1-2 times a day, and ask for blocking issues with their projects ……….(2) Have frequent team meetings to go over critical issues …….(3) Make their introductions to all of the stakeholders of the project, so that they can feel comfortable going to them directly instead of coming to you for smaller issues ………(4) Develop personal relationships with them. Strong relationships can help you go a long way.
Obtaining Information: Similar to adjusting your management style, you might need to change the way you communicate. Let’s say, if you are trying to get some information from a Chinese manager, and if this is your first time communicating with him, then you might want to utilize your contacts at similar levels in the organization to get that information. In most of the cases, information may not flow downward through the hierarchy as easily as one might expect, when the culture of the company is less hierarchical. In order to get the correct information on the right time, you might want to cultivate your informal contacts within your Chinese branch. And yeah! Always make sure to rephrase your understanding of the issue/solution, once you get the desired information. This practice will ensure that you are on the same page with your Chinese counterparts. Sometimes, language barrier can create various problems.
Presenting Information: Chinese culture is very status-oriented. Let’s say, you are a manager in the US company, who manages the offshore team of 10-12 Chinese employees. Now, assume that you want to change your current process. I bet you……when you will present your new plan to these employees, you will get very minimal or no feedback. Due to their status-oriented culture, there may be less feedback from the audience during a presentation than one might expect in a more equality-focused culture. And hence, I would recommend you to give them the opportunity to provide their feedback later through an e-mail or an anonymous forum. In most of the cases, they feel very comfortable in providing their feedback to their superior in a private setting as compared to a public setting.
I hope, these tips can help you to become a better manger, when you are working with a Chinese team. What other changes would you make in your management style, while working with Chinese employees?
Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to write effective e-mails to get quicker response

Have you ever been in an e-mail chain where more than 10 people were addressed in the e-mail, but no one knew who is going to respond? If you are a manager or in a similar position, then you must be getting these kind of e-mails at least once in a day. Isn’t it? Actually, this situation is very common than you might think. On an average, 70% of the e-mails in the work place are targeted to the wide audience to get some people’s input, while notifying others at the same time. And that’s where the problem occurs. Since there are multiple users involved in ‘cc’ of the e-mail, all of them think that someone will respond, and at the end, no one ends up responding. In order to avoid those situations, and get quicker response to your emails, I am providing you with few tips on writing effective e-mails.
Use appropriate subject line: You must have been through the situation, where one e-mail might have been forwarded and replied so many times that its subject line doesn’t have any value anymore. Isn’t it? Let’s say, you get an e-mail from one of your employees (Mrs. X) regarding the issue that she found during her testing. The subject line of that e-mail might be “Issue found during testing XYZ product”. After few to-and-from communication with engineers about this issue, you forward this issue to the product manager for prioritizing the resolution of this issue. In this situation, product manager might take few hours or an entire day, before he can respond to this e-mail. Reason being…..from the subject line, this e-mail didn’t seem important to him. And hence, whenever you are forwarding an e-mail to someone, please change the subject line to target your responder. If you would have changed the subject line to “Prioritizing issue resolution for XYZ product”, then you might have got a quicker and descriptive response.
Highlight names: Let’s consider the same example given above. Let’s say, you want to forward this e-mail to the product manager and the engineering manager for their specific responses, and you also want to include 4-5 engineers in ‘cc’ of that e-mail to keep them informed about the resolution. And your e-mail description might say something like “how do we prioritize the resolution for this issue?”. Since, this e-mail is directed to so many people at the same time, you might not get any clear response, since people will wait for others to respond. Let’s say, you would have wrote this instead……”@Steve: How should we prioritize this issue? @David: Is it possible to fix this issue in our next release of the product?”. I am sure, your response would have been more clearer, since you have targeted your questions to each individual included in the e-mail. Thus, I would always recommend you to target your responders by their name, if you are expecting them to provide their input.
I hope, these tips will help you to draft an effective e-mail, so that you can get your responses quickly and easily. Do you have any similar ideas through which you can improve your e-mail communication?
Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to keep your team motivated in the crunch time?

How to keep your team motivated in the crunch time?

I am sure, as a manager, you must have encountered a situation where your team has been working very hard for past few months to get that next product out of the door. And due to this situation, everyone in your team feels under-appreciated and overworked. And you don’t know how to keep your team motivated. Does this sound familiar?........Through this blog, I would try to give you some tips through which you can keep your employees motivated during this crunch time.
Provide feedback: As far as feeling under-appreciated goes, this has to be the #1 killer of team's motivation. During the crunch time, our focus is so much on the end result that we forget to provide feedback to our team. Sometimes it is very crucial to provide constant feedback to your team on how they are doing. This behavior not only conveys the message that you care for your team, but it also gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes in your current process.
Communicate purpose: The second biggest killer of self-motivation is negativity. When we set personal expectations at a level that are unattainable, we start to invent reasons for why we are not achieving our goals. We start thinking about past failures that have not gone our way and weak points in our character or at least in our working style. This causes us to come up with all the reasons that we can't succeed. Hence, to keep your team motivated, you not only need to accept that the timeline given for the project was too aggressive, but you need to also provide them with the reason of ‘why we are doing, what we are doing’. This will provide your team with some background on why you are having these aggressive deadlines, and how it will impact the business, if you don’t meet those deadlines. Also, (if possible) you need to provide them with some blueprint of the plan, so that this doesn’t happen again.
Positive reinforcement: During these tough times, I would recommend you to remember old success stories, and recognize it for what it was. The power of this kind of positive reinforcement and positive feedback can’t be underestimated. Make sure that your team is getting the positive feedback from you that they need. Always make sure to restate your team’s and individual achievements during your team meetings and one-on-one meetings with your team members. This will encourage your team to keep going.
I hope these tips will help you to keep your team motivated in the crunch time. What would you do in this situation? How will you keep your team motivated?
Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Make your part-time MBA work for you

Make your part-time MBA work for you

Have you currently graduated from a part-time MBA program? Do you find it difficult to capitalize on your MBA? Well…...you are not alone. Recently, one of my colleague, who has finished her part-time MBA, asked me similar questions. Though she has finished her part-time MBA, she was not recognizing any benefits from it. While I don’t have magical solution to make your MBA work, I have few suggestions which can help you.
Communicate with your manager:
If you are like me, and if you are also working on your MBA while working full-time, then you should communicate your intentions to your manager before you even think of starting the program.
Some of you might be hesitant to share this knowledge with your manager, since you might be afraid to see the reaction from your manager. While some managers will see this communication as an effort from your side to change your existing job, 90% of the manager see this as a potential growth opportunity for their employees.
What can happen here? Either your manager will be impressed by your initiative of pursuing further education to help towards your job, or he will just neglect your entire conversation. Well……you don’t have anything to loose here. But if you don’t have this conversation with your Boss, then you have everything to lose.
I remembered, when I had this conversation with my boss…..he was not only impressed by my decision to improve my knowledge, but he also took the initiative to find out more information regarding the tuition reimbursement program in my company. As a result, I ended up paying only 30% of my total tuition cost for the entire program.
Implement your learning at work: 
Most of the people who pursue their part-time MBA want to get a head in their existing job, so that they can get promoted to the next level. Though the idea behind this thought process is very nice, they lose their focus in middle of the program.
I have seen numerous MBA students, who get busy in their day-to-day coursework that they forget to implement their learning at their workplace. Thus, at the end of their MBA program, they have this knowledge which they can’t apply to their existing job, and hence think of changing their job instead of growing within the same company.
By implementing your learning at your current workplace, you will not only practice your knowledge and get better at it, you will also increase your visibility within your peers. Imagine, if you are working in Software Company as a software developer and going for your MBA in finance. Though these two subjects are completely different, you can still use your finance knowledge to assess the business impact of your new project. Wouldn’t you look more prepared when you are presenting your next development idea to your VP, and providing him with all the stats on how this project will help the organization to succeed?
Thus, you should always try to find opportunities where you can practice your MBA learning at your work place.
I hope these examples were helpful to uncover the full potential of your part-time MBA program. In the meanwhile, if you have any other ideas through which you can make your part-time MBA work for you, then please feel free to share those here.
Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

Why part-time MBA is more worth than a full-time MBA

Why part-time MBA is more worth than a full-time MBA?

by Bhavin Gandhi

This is a long lasting debate. Some people prefer to do a full-time MBA as compared to a part-time MBA. Though you can’t say which one is better over another with utmost certainty, I would recommend part-time MBA for working professionals as compared to a full-time MBA. Obviously, there are various reasons why you want to do a part-time MBA, but some of the primary reasons are as follows:
Cost savings: Unless you got accepted to an Ivey League University for your full-time MBA, I would recommend you to do your part-time MBA from some local University. It will save you some tremendous amount of money. Let’s say, if you were to do your full-time MBA from some University. In that case, you had to quit your job for couple of years. Let’s say, you are earning $50,000/year right now. That means, you are losing $100,000 in two years of your education period, because you won’t be working full-time during that time. In addition to your loss of income, you have to pay for the tuition from your own pocket, which might be anywhere between $50,000 to $200,000. In short, you would be losing on an average around $150,000 ($100,000 + $50,000) during these 2 years of your full-time MBA. Let’s say, you somehow magically find a job in this economy with your full-time MBA, which pays you $15,000 more than your previous salary, then also you will take at least 10-15 years to cover that cost. Isn’t that right?
Minimal risk: Other than the huge cost savings, part-time MBA comes with other additional advantages. And one of the most important advantage is – minimal risk. If you are a working professional, then chances are …… your current employer might be covering partial or full cost for the entire program. Thus, you don’t have to come up with the tuition amount from your pocket. Let’s say, you started your program and in the middle of it, you somehow didn't end up liking it. In that case, you can just quit, since you haven’t invested much of your personal money in this initiative. In addition to this, you don’t have to spend much time studying for GMAT or GRE, since most of the part-time programs (like Harvard Extension School) offer few classes as Grad Special, and if you perform well in those classes then you get to enter in to the program without giving your standardize tests. This will ensure that you like the program before you actually get admitted in to one, unlike the full-time MBA program.
Understand the other side: When I first thought of doing my MBA, I wanted to do it to understand what my Boss does. Being from a technical background, I always had a problem understanding the strategic decisions taken by my company. I was much more involved in the technology as compared to the business behind it. My part-time MBA provided me with the opportunity to understand the business perspective better. I am not saying that I couldn’t have learned the same thing through full-time MBA, but if I were in the full-time MBA program, then I wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect this learning to the current work environment. Most of the times, I would learn something from my MBA classes, and I was able to directly apply that learning at my work place. And that has helped me retain approximately 60% of my concepts, which I wouldn’t have otherwise remembered due to lack of practice. And maybe, this is the key reason why one should prefer part-time MBA over full-time program.
I hope these tips will help to choose between full-time and part-time MBA program. Do you have any other reasons due to which you would prefer a part-time MBA program over a full-time option?
Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to sell your online MBA degree to future employers?

How to sell your online MBA degree to future employers?

by Bhavin Gandhi
Have you finished your MBA through an online program? Are you unable to experience any benefits from your degree? Well…..you are not alone. More than 50% of the employers still prefer an MBA candidate with the traditional classroom experience as compared to an online MBA student. Despite of this stereo types of an online MBA candidate, you can still succeed with your degree. You just need to know, how to sell it. With this blog, I am going to provide you with some pointers through which you can get the same benefit out of your online MBA program as compared to any other in-class MBA program.
Capitalize on cultural awareness:
If you are doing an online MBA from a Tier 1 or Tier 2 level school, then chances are…….you must be working in a diverse team with people from different countries. You should use this experience as your strength during your job search. Mention those specific projects on your resume to portray your knowledge of cross cultural understanding. With most of the major companies going global, this experience will definitely work in your advantage, if presented correctly.
I would also recommend you to provide some specific examples on your resume on how you had solved some of the cross cultural conflicts. These kinds of smaller examples can help you bring up this topic during your in-person interviews. And you can then elaborate on that in further details. It goes without saying…..try to connect your experience with the company’s current needs of working with cross cultural teams.
Be the leader of your virtual teams:
If you think of it, all the project teams in an online MBA program are nothing but a virtual team. In your program, you must have worked with different people from different time zones to finish certain projects. And hence, you should also capitalize on your experience in working with remote/virtual teams. Don’t just say…..”I have worked in a virtual team”. Try to be more specific on your resume. Provide examples on how you resolved issues due to time and language barriers during your project. It wouldn’t hurt, if you can talk about those experiences in your in-person interviews, and maybe summarize with lessons learned during your experience.
In today’s world, lot of companies operate in different locations. Thus, most of their meetings, projects and day-to-day activities are virtual. Thus, if you can prove that you have not only worked in that environment, but you have also learned how to improve those communications in that environment; then you would definitely standout from the crowd.
I hope these tips will help to sell your online MBA degree to your future employer. Do you have any other ideas through which you can show the importance of your online MBA degree to your future employer?
Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.