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Succeed by working smart.

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

Ask any adult, which teachers do they respect?

At one time we may have been angry and displeased with some of them, for being so demanding of us, but years later always remember with gratitude those who pushed us to better ourselves, and realise our true potential. The same goes with parents, and seniors.

Those who pampered us we may remember with a fondness but rarely with respect.

Like a potter, who moulds the lump of clay into a fine piece of pottery, so it is with a good teacher, parent, senior etc.

This is in continuation of my previous article, 'The Upward Delegation Trap', where I explain how to compel juniors to find solutions on their own as much as is possible. Thus enhancing their performance capacity and capabilities.

It's not always true, that knowledge is power. For seniors, sometimes being in the know can exacerbate a problem, can make one an accomplice to failure, negligence and shoddy work.

Often someone who has to perform a task, meet a deadline or achieve a target, such as a colleagues, juniors and vendors shares with us their problems, in achieving desired outcomes. Since we have been duly informed we realise much later on that we become a party to a failure by justifying it.

"Did I not inform you that, XYZ has not provided the information or is unavailable Often, people who have informed you about a concern, automatically assume that since you know about the situation will accept failure. It lets them off the hook and often relieves them of their need to perform to expectations and meet their commitments and obligations.

No one likes to share bad news. So it's natural to seek to hide failures and potential failures. Rather than receiving positive outcomes we often receive a nasty surprise.

To prevent surprises, review is important. To re-view one must first have a view meaning a plan. Further a plan assigning clear responsibilities and deadlines to each team member

Remember, 'What is not reviewed is never done'. It is the responsibility of the senior to check periodically with juniors about how the project, assignment or commitment is proceeding.

A post mortem has a limited use and none whatsoever in effecting outcomes.

Reviews must be regular and no later than midway, so as to judge whether the commitment will be honoured or not. If there is a problem then, it gives us a chance to revert to plan 'B' or make alternative arrangements, to meet commitments.

Finally, whenever a subordinate informs me, of a problem I always ask three questions.

1. Why are you telling me this?

The usual response is, I just need you to be informed.

I respond. 'I am informed'

2. "Can I assume that in spite of the problem you will be meeting the commitment?"

If the answer is yes, then there is no need for the third question.

3. If the answer is no, I ask,"What support do you need from me, to meet the commitment?"

We then have a discussion and arrive at an agreement on whatever he or she needs. Then I proceed to assist the junior as agreed.

I also work behind the scenes to direct support to the junior to ensure success.

Surprisingly most people are weak in planning and often have no clue about what support they need to get back on track. This is where, leadership comes in. It is to compel juniors to study the problems and come up with solutions with necessary handholding.

It is amazing the capacity and creativity that emerge from juniors when they are encouraged to find solutions. They go on to learn how to address problems and overcome challenges.

Success needs no explanation and failure tolerates no excuse.

Customer, colleagues, associates do not care about excuses for failure. Performing well and meeting commitments is all that matters to them. As the senior person, I still remain responsible and accountable.

When any commitment looks like its in danger of failing, I move from periodic to frequent but brief reviews, always supporting my junior colleague with necessary resources, and advice. It is paramount that the junior team member remains accountable and responsible within the team to meet the commitment.

The ability to get things done or what one calls as execution is 90% of all work. Shockingly most managers and owners focus more on strategising, planning and demanding more resources, rather than on achieving results. Those who mistake activity as action often fail and drag their colleagues and organisations down with them.

To give an example before I adopted this approach we had an On-Time Performance of only 31%. Within 2 years of good leadership, teamwork, proper planning and deployment, supporting and guiding, our organisation consistently achieved an On-Time Performance of 99.5%.

World class performance, comes not by finding, brilliant, extraordinary people and letting them do whatever they want. Rather, outstanding performance comes from, being able to get ordinary people to perform extraordinarily, both as individuals and as teams.

Working in this way, high performance becomes a habit. This is what it means to work smarter.


From my seminar on 'Becoming and remaining World Class'

Becoming a leading organisation in any field requires superior performance. It comes not from brilliant individuals as much as it comes from disciplined ways of working under a committed leadership.

These disciplines can be readily learnt and practiced by individuals and organisations.

To facilitate development of these and other traits, Guru Wonder conducts a two day workshop on 'Becoming and remaining World Class'

Contact :

Telephone:  +91 957 951 0353


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1 Comment

Arun Iyer
Arun Iyer
Dec 22, 2019

Very well said Guri. I have followed a practice of 9 am meetings on every Monday and discussions are minuted and on the following week we review how much has been accomplished. This has a dramatic effect on efficiency .. I will share this write up with my team . Will learn more from you during a round of golf with you. cheers buddy. keep educating with your wisdom. Regards . Arun Iyer

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